In an effort to uncover some more show secrets we’ve asked north-west brand ambassador Bonnie Fishburn for her top tips to ensuring a successful show.
If you haven’t got any mane and tail spray I find that baby oil helps to detangle the tail and leaves it super glossy. It doesn’t have the same lasting effect as a normal spray, but it does glisten beautifully in the sunlight… one of my favourite show secrets!
This may seem a little OCD, but I put hoof oil on my horse’s chestnuts at an event. I’m sure that no one will be looking at them, but I’ve got into the habit of doing it and it keeps them lovely and soft.
In the summer it’s not a good idea to let horses get too hot in their stables or while travelling, but at the same time it’s annoying when they get terrible muck stains or look like scarecrows with hay stuck in their plaits. I use Shires sweet itch combos all year round for stabling the night before a competition and when travelling. The horses never get hot in the summer and in winter the combos are perfect to use under rugs. They keep the horses clean and their plaits tidy, while keeping them cool when travelling.
In winter it’s important not let your horses get cold while hanging around at shows. Also if they’ve got wet be careful that they don’t catch a chill. I travel with a selection of rugs of varying thickness so that I am prepared for all weathers. Having spares is handy if any should become damp for any reason.
It’s also beneficial to take a good waterproof sheet incase you can’t hide from the rain. If it’s really cold while warming up I ride with an exercise sheet that I then take off once the horse is sufficiently warmed up. This means it’s also there once you come out of the ring. It’s not good when you see people standing around while their horse steams away, risking catching a chill.
On hot days it’s a good idea to work out which side of the lorry will have shade and (if possible) park accordingly so that you can tie your horses to the shadiest side.
If you’re at a dressage competition or out eventing, you may find that a whiteboard is useful for writing your times on. Keep it somewhere handy where you can see it easily. This will become a vital piece of equipment if you have more than one horse. Remember to write each horse’s numbers next to their names, so that you don’t get muddled with number bibs (I’ve done that before…it’s a long way back to the lorry to swap your number when you’re just about to go in the ring).
There’s nothing more annoying than having warmed up ready to go in the dressage arena to discover that you still have two or three horses in front of you. This means that your horses can go off the boil and not do the test you’d hoped for. Likewise it’s frustrating when you are called in to the arena and your horse is still whizzing around with his nose stuck in the air because he’s so excited to be at an event. It’s really worthwhile to learn how long your horse needs warming up for to get the best test out of him. It may be worth taking your horse to a little unaffiliated riding club competition for some practise. The same goes for warming up for showjumping competitions, some horses need very few practice fences, whereas others need a good jump before they go in.
I have been known to take three horses to an event on my own – it’s really not easy and I certainly don’t recommend it. Two is just about manageable, but any more than that is a nightmare. If you haven’t got any horsey family or friends to help, try and persuade someone to come along that would be capable of maybe just holding a horse while you change them over on the lorry, pass you things, or fill water buckets. Every little helps.
My mum isn’t horsey but she is happy to hang on to a horse for me while I wash him off after cross-country etc. and she’s a whizz with a video camera. If I’m absolutely desperate she will even put a fence up for me in the warm up area. However, the showjumping warm up arena isn’t the safest of places for a non-horsey person to be if it’s busy. Usually horses are flying all over the place, from all sorts of directions and not everyone knows that the red flag should be to the right of a fence and the white flag to the left.
I travel to a lot of events on my own and what I try and do in the showjumping warm up is keep an eye out for someone who is at the same stage of warming up as me and try and join in with what they are jumping. Most people are very understanding if you just mention that you are on your own. They will happily wait for you to pop the fence before they put it up. Most of the eventers are very friendly; don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand.
The same goes if you are changing horses over at the lorry and just need an extra pair of hands for a couple of minutes. However, one thing that I don’t recommend is leaving your horsey tied up while you are not there, even the quietest or bravest of horses can be spooked easily and break loose.
If you are on your own plan ahead, know where all your tack is for each phase and have a change of kit, equipment and clothes ready just to slip into. I would say one of the biggest things for travelling alone is to make sure that people know that you are on your own. Try and let someone who you know and trust where your vehicle keys, phone etc. is… just in case anything should happen.
One thing that I try and do at the end of an event is to clean and polish my boots. I hate putting away dirty boots and having to get them out when I’m at home. It’s a really good habit to get into. Also once it’s done, it’s done until your next event. My last pair of Sarm Hippiques lasted me 11 or 12 years and they are still a great back up pair 15 years on!
To keep up to date with what Bonnie and her horses have been up to then check out her latest brand ambassador blogs.